5E Concerned that Geas will Railroad my players

Shiroiken

Adventurer
Geas can be interesting or boring, depending on presentation and methodology. As in the days of yore, when evil DMs like myself twisted the wording of a wish, a player can twist the wording of the geas to try and fulfill their needs as well.

In your case, I'd have the artifact be sentient and telepathic (see intelligent items in DMG). It puts the attuned character under the geas, giving it the vague demand that the PC destroy it's enemy. The player may take some minor negative effect at the end of the first day, since they couldn't possibly do it, then the player can explain (telepathically) that it couldn't do it without more information. You can sprinkle information about the enemy (or at least possible information) among the party's goals, so that they can try to convince the artifact that they are working towards it's goal, while keeping their own.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
TL/DR If my players find an artifact that put a Geas on the character to perform a quest, will it feel too railroad-y?

There is a chance my players will find an ancient artifact, but it (and its former owner) has a mission to defeat its ancient enemy. It may deem the players worthy and grant them the artifact so that they can finish what it could not. However, one of the properties of the artifact is that when attuned, the wielder of the artifact is under a Geas until the ancient foe is defeated.That foe is clear across the other side of the country and takes them out of the way of their immediate goals. I worry that the players will feel I'm railroading them and taking away their choice.

Can I water down the effects of Geas so that they can pursue their goals but still feel that they need to take care of the other thing? How would you approach it?
Having the ability to geas, how restricted the gas is etc are all questions to be considered for any intelligent user. It should be obvious yo any sentient that having an actual ally, of similar goals, greater power etc is more likely to succeed than jump commandeering whoever happens by.

So, to me, it should not be a problem to have the item be more ally than master until it sees an opportunity or need to head for clear gain.

Once you turn to gas and domination, you have established an opposition footing and really you are now adding enemies - usually not the best way to proceed.

So, just because an item has that power, it does not have too use it in heavy handed ways that truthfully may undermine its purpose.

I would tend to run those "npc" items as cooperative, trying to convince or use or manipulate this tie to gain progress and hold back the geas trump card until a key moment when it really matters. Its overall 9bjective and how much it wants it should be figured out over time, so that when the geas card gets used it would be "surprising" but not so much an actual surprise.
 

Mort

Community Supporter
You might as well ban the spell if you're not going to use it for its sole function.
That's not really what this thread is about though.

The OP seems to feel that a straight Geas is too "bonk on the head" railroady and is looking for a more subtle/nuanced approach.

Banning is more for when you think something is inappropriate for players not for something in a DMs toolbox (As the DM you don't ban something from yourself, you just don't use it).
 
That's not really what this thread is about though.

The OP seems to feel that a straight Geas is too "bonk on the head" railroady and is looking for a more subtle/nuanced approach.

Banning is more for when you think something is inappropriate for players not for something in a DMs toolbox (As the DM you don't ban something from yourself, you just don't use it).
It's exactly my response to the original question:

"Can I water down the effects of Geas so that they can pursue their goals but still feel that they need to take care of the other thing? How would you approach it?"

Don't. That's exactly what the spell is for. If you're going to water it down, you may as well not use it at all. It's no railroad to use a spell that forces you to do something. The quest then becomes how to remove the curse.
 

cmad1977

Adventurer
Could have the Item tell the players about its quest/obsession and the stakes involved. Then they can make an informed decision and you haven’t forced them into anything.

Would a “good” item press an unwilling individual into service?
 

akr71

Explorer
It's exactly my response to the original question:

"Can I water down the effects of Geas so that they can pursue their goals but still feel that they need to take care of the other thing? How would you approach it?"

Don't. That's exactly what the spell is for. If you're going to water it down, you may as well not use it at all. It's no railroad to use a spell that forces you to do something. The quest then becomes how to remove the curse.
I appreciate what you are saying, however I disagree.
#1 This is a property of an artifact, so it does not need to perfectly mimic the spell description in the PHB
#2 The point of the Geas (or modified Geas) is to introduce a new adventure hook that also links into a characters backstory, without overriding the party's current goals.
 

akr71

Explorer
Could have the Item tell the players about its quest/obsession and the stakes involved. Then they can make an informed decision and you haven’t forced them into anything.

Would a “good” item press an unwilling individual into service?
Most definitely yes, the item or the creature offering the item will be upfront about the item and the stakes. When designing this artifact, I consulted the tables in the DMG and selected major and minor beneficial and detrimental properties from those tables. I don't like rolling because the end result can often feel muddled and I wanted the thing to have a certain theme.

As for pressing an unwilling individual into service, it is an artifact and there should be some downside to using the artifact.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Most definitely yes, the item or the creature offering the item will be upfront about the item and the stakes. When designing this artifact, I consulted the tables in the DMG and selected major and minor beneficial and detrimental properties from those tables. I don't like rolling because the end result can often feel muddled and I wanted the thing to have a certain theme.

As for pressing an unwilling individual into service, it is an artifact and there should be some downside to using the artifact.
But as an I intelligence, not a good, will it chose to use that ability? The likely result of geas on one PC to drive it to go do something the others do not want is... they break this control and toss thisxwespon into a very very very deep dung heap.

Few parties will allow one of their own to be compelled into service by "strsngers" against their will and if someone starts acting strange etc the suddenly wants new vourse, there will be exams etc.

The geas club like any tool needs to be used well or it actually goes against your purpose. At the level of a group getting their hands on an artifact they likely have ccess to Revivify and Remove Curse so heavy handed and such is less likely to succeed than biding one's time for getting a willing ally.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
But as an I intelligence, not a good, will it chose to use that ability? The likely result of geas on one PC to drive it to go do something the others do not want is... they break this control and toss thisxwespon into a very very very deep dung heap.

Few parties will allow one of their own to be compelled into service by "strsngers" against their will and if someone starts acting strange etc the suddenly wants new vourse, there will be exams etc.

The geas club like any tool needs to be used well or it actually goes against your purpose. At the level of a group getting their hands on an artifact they likely have ccess to Revivify and Remove Curse so heavy handed and such is less likely to succeed than biding one's time for getting a willing ally.
So what you're saying is that ...
tenor.png
 

akr71

Explorer
But as an I intelligence, not a good, will it chose to use that ability? The likely result of geas on one PC to drive it to go do something the others do not want is... they break this control and toss this weapon into a very very very deep dung heap.

Few parties will allow one of their own to be compelled into service by "strangers" against their will and if someone starts acting strange etc the suddenly wants new course, there will be exams etc.

The geas club like any tool needs to be used well or it actually goes against your purpose. At the level of a group getting their hands on an artifact they likely have access to Revivify and Remove Curse so heavy handed and such is less likely to succeed than biding one's time for getting a willing ally.
I have considered these questions. Neither the item's owner, nor the item (nor the DM for that matter) wants to send the characters to their death. The goal is to defeat a particular foe and if they aren't ready to face it, both the item's owner and the item will know it. The last thing the NPC bestowing the artifact upon them wants is for the artifact to end up in the hands of its ancient foe.

I've got my work cut out for me to first do a bit of a lore dump about the item, and how to implement the geas-like features over time. It will ramp up as the party gets strong enough to handle the the baddie.
 

Quartz

Explorer
Here's an idea: the item knows that the PCs aren't strong enough to defeat its nemesis so it geases them to find someone who is, someone the PCs already know. This person can then go off and get defeated by the baddie. The PCs can then re-find the artefact later on and complete the job, and get revenge for their deceased friend.
 

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